E. Lo Cascio and D. W. Rathbone (edd.), Production and Public Powers in Classical Antiquity (Cambridge Philological Society Supplement 26). Cambridge: Cambridge Philological Society, 2000. Pp. 99. ISBN 0-906014-25-5. No price stated.
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
In the second half of the first century BC and the first half of the first century AD there were large- scale population movements along the Lower Rhine in the area that eventually became the province of Germania Inferior. Not all of these were caused by Roman intervention. The Menapians, on both sides of the river, were displaced by other German tribes. The effects of this were also felt by the Eburones: they were later heavily defeated by Julius Caesar. A group of Chattans, called Batavians, were allowed to settle at the mouth of the Rhine. Various smaller groupings, collectively called the Germani Cisrhenani, crossed to the west bank of the Rhine. The biggest group consisted of the Ubians who had a central settlement, called the oppidum Ubiorum, near which Roman legions were settled, as they were at the future centres of Bonn, Xanten and Nijmegen. These settlements were rapidly urbanized, and the Town of the Ubians became a Roman colony, still preserving a reference to its new status in its current name of Cologne (Köln).
All these peoples had to supply the Roman troops in their midst. Many of them themselves served in the Roman army as auxiliary soldiers, and were paid in coins. The Romans built roads and installed an infrastructure. There were widespread economic spin- offs from which not only the locals -- who introduced changes into their agricultural production methods -- but also the Romans benefited. This in spite of the fact that in many ways the region paralleled southern Britain, of which the Augustan geographer Strabo said that the military cost of conquest would not be covered by subsequent revenue received. Was their involvement in Lower Germany conceived of in purely military and political terms? The area had to be pacified to prevent unrest in Gaul and to serve as a base for advance eastward into Germany towards the Elbe. Two items of archaeological evidence may be cited. In the mid-first century BC a variant of the local triquetrum coinage appeared on the Lower Rhine.[] The coins were of a low denomination and have been interpreted as small change intended to facilitate purchases by the Roman soldiers from the locals. In the 1990s a large Roman settlement was excavated at Waldgirmes on the Lahn, i.e., on an early invasion route.[] At first it was interpreted as a fortress or a marching camp; but it soon became clear that its purpose was not military. It was in fact a small town with a principia and a basilica, together with extensive facilities for the production of not only pottery but also prestigious items in stone and metal statuary. Finds of Germanic pottery in the settlement point to extensive interchange with the surrounding population. The rapid growth of the towns on the banks of the Rhine and such evidence as that just cited seem to imply that there was a 'developmental' and an 'economic' element, in addition to a strategic and military one, in Roman planning for advances into new territory. It is this sort of slippery problem that the book under review discusses. It consists of revised versions of various papers presented at the XIth International Economic History Congress held in Milan in 1994.
There is an introduction (pp. l-4) by E. Lo Cascio and D. Rathbone. They define the problem addressed as the influence of public powers on production in classical antiquity, the impact of the classical state on production independently of any political objective. 'Ancient Greece' is handled by R. Sallares (pp. 5-13). State organization itself was still evolving. There were fluctuations in population sizes: the resultant emigration and colonization may be defined as an economic response. The city had to be concerned with the grain supply. Solon seems to have attempted to restrict the export of grain. C. Ampolo, 'I terreni sacri nel mondo greco' (pp. 14-19) discusses land around temples that 'belonged' to the gods. But in practice this category of ge hiera seems to have differed little from city or demosia ge. Communities used the revenues from sacred land for religious purposes but did not otherwise develop it. Chapter 4, M. Austin's 'Ancient Greece' (pp. 20-26), is largely a response to Sallares' review. He allows more public control in the polis and emphasized that the Greeks regarded trade as important: it was necessary for civilization and a fundamental factor in international relations. State interest need not be confined to state production.
R. van der Spek, 'The Seleucid State and the Economy' (pp. 27-36), is the first of three papers on the Hellenistic empires. Taxation became more important, and increased. He suggests that the king may have improved his revenues by financing large-scale projects such as irrigation schemes which private enterprise could not afford but which increased the amount of land available for agriculture. But the military factor remained dominant. D. Foraboschi (pp. 37-43) discusses 'Indirect Intervention by the State' in the Hellenistic economy. The disruption caused by war, the minting of money, taxation, intervention in landholding, legislation on temples, urbanization all had their effect. D. Rathbone (pp. 44-54) writes on 'Ptolemaic to Roman Egypt'. Large tracts of land, the basilike, klerouchike and hiera, came under royal control. Ptolemy II developed the Fayum, drafting 15 000 labourers from other nomes, but on the whole there was little 'development' of royal land. The monetarization of Egypt occurred under the Ptolemies. But as their revenue from rents and taxes increased they lost the incentive for economic development of the land. Under the Romans monetarization increased further and a landowning elite, as elsewhere in the empire, developed.
H. Schneider, 'Politisches System und wirtschaftliche Entwicklung in der späten römischen Republik' (pp. 55-62), stressed the agricultural basis of wealth in Republican Rome. Rome sometimes intervened to deal with both rural and urban poverty, but the increase of slavery led to an increasing wealth differential between the great landowners and the rest of the population. Their interests were especially protected by the careful development of Roman property law. Greater attention might have been paid to the role of the provinces in late Republican finances. J. Andreau's title, 'Comment la res publica ne pouvait par ne pas influer sur la vie économique' (pp. 63-69) answers its own question. His paper is mainly concerned with high finance. The ruling class -- the senators -- thought of this mainly in terms of their estates and the revenue they produced. Money was lent, but not as commercial capital. There are interesting remarks on the financial results of empire.
P. Orsted's paper, 'Roman State Intervention? The Case of Mining in the Roman Empire' (pp. 70-76), is the only one confined to a particular industry. The Romans monopolized the control of mining for state revenue. Mines were not always operated directly, but could be leased. Orsted concentrates on the mine at Aljustrel in Portugal known from the Lex Metalli Vipascensis under Hadrian. There apparently anyone could contract to exploit a shaft on payment of a fee to the procurator. The lessee did not acquire the ore, but only the right to mine his shaft. Half of the return derived went to the imperial fiscus. In addition, he was not allowed to process the ore himself, but handed it over to the conductor or production manager at the refinery. Accordingly, the system provided limited scope for private enterprise. Orsted's comments would have been appreciated on the cargo of more than one hundred lead ingots found in a wreck in the Po at Comacchio in 1980.[] Some of the bars are stamped with the names of legions, as MAC(edonica), X GEM(ina?) and L(egio) PR(ima), all of which fought in Spain under Agrippa in the Cantabrian War of 19 B.C. Some of the bars bear his name, AGRIP(pa). Four other names are attested: C. MAT(ius), L. CAES(ius) and BAT(ius?). It seems clear that Agrippa sent detachments from the legions to mine the silver-rich lead in Cantabria. It was not unusual for the Roman army to superintend, if not also actually to engage in mining. The Romans usually took over ownership of the mines in the provinces. Even so, one may deduce here a stimulus to the local economy during conquest. The other names are significant. Caesius is well- represented in this part of Spain (also around the Po, where the wreck occurred). Can one deduce Agrippa involving 'private enterprise' in the mining operation?
E. Lo Cascio returns to the broad overview approach in 'The Roman Principate: The Impact of the Organization of the Empire in Production' (pp. 77- 85). Growth benefited from the pax Romana and markets expanded. The emperors encouraged the spread of agriculture (by incorporating marginal land). There was greater uniformity in commercial law, the metrological system, and a single monetary area. The provincial elites adopted the lavish lifestyle of the Roman nobility. But imperial, or state, intervention did not supersede the market. R. Bagnall and J. Canaji discuss the Late Empire in the two concluding chapters (12-13; pp. 86-99).
Except for the contribution on sacred land by Ampolo and on mining by Orsted these essays cover many topics over lengthy time-spans within a few pages. Hence they cannot get down to specifics, but deal in generalities, although these are often illuminating. Perhaps the way forward is to narrow topics and the time frame for each. But this is a stimulating collection, conveniently presented in our technical language and beautifully produced by the press.
[] N. Roymans, 'The Lower Rhine Triquetrum coinages and the Ethnogenesis of the Batavi' in T. Grünewald (ed.) German Inferior RGA Erg. 28 (2001) 93-145.
[] A. Becker & G. Rasbach, Der spätaugusteische Stützpunkt Lahnau-Waldgirmes', Germania 76 (1998) 673-92.
[] M. Paz García-Bellido, 'Sellos legionarios en los lingotes de ploma de Comacchio (Ferrara), Epigr. 40 (1998) 9-44; idem, 'Legionsstempel aus der Zeit der Agrippa auf hispanischen Bleibarren aus Comacchio (Ferrara)', BJ 118 (1998) 1-27.